The race has shifted as the general public has started to pay attention

The incomparable Peggy Noonan is right. There has been a perceptible shift in the presidential election.

She just may be a little later than we normally would expect her to be in noticing it.

In today’s online Wall Street Journal, Noonan writes:

This thing is moving. Things are shifting around a bit. That’s what I see looking back at the past four weeks…

For the first time the idea began to take hold that John McCain can win this thing. You saw the USA Today-Gallup poll this week, with Mr. McCain gaining six points since late June among those Gallup dubbed likely voters. Mr. McCain took the lead, 49% to 45%. Among registered voters, it’s still Barack Obama, 47% to 44%. A poll came out saying people are tired of hearing about Mr. Obama. Mr. McCain took the lead in YouTube hits. Small stuff, and there will be a lot of twists and turns before this is over, but there’s movement down there beneath the crust of the Earth…

There’s a thing that’s out there and it’s big, and latent, and somehow always taken into account and always ignored, and political professionals always assume they understand it. It has been called many things the past 50 years, “the silent center,” “the silent majority,” “the coalition,” “the base.” The idea of it has evolved as its composition has evolved, but the fact that it’s big, and relatively silent, and somehow always latent, maintains. And watching that McCain event—vroom vroom—one got the sense it is perhaps beginning to pay attention to the campaign. I see it as the old America, and if and when it reasserts itself, the campaign will shift indeed, and in ways you can even see from 10,000 feet. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121813852996621575.html?mod=todays_columnists

All campaigns ebb and flow, and this one has been no different. In fact, given all the hype, it has been remarkable in just how conventional this election has turned out to be. Battles will be fought on the same turf as 2000 and 2004, and the same issues and presentations of them will be debated and made.

The left-wing media bias has been more pronounced this time, of course. If this has paid any dividends for Sen. Barack Obama it is difficult to ascertain. In fact, if the bias has paid dividends Obama is in serious trouble if this is the best it can buy him.

The exact moment when a campaign turns or tightens is difficult to pinpoint. When historians look back at this election, they may decide that moment happened during the primary when the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the “clinging to their guns and Bibles” tapes surfaced. After that happened, Obama went on to lose eight of the next 13 contests against his primary opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton. Observors might decide the shift was more recent and was a backlash to Obama’s presumptuous Middle Eastern and European tour.

I suspect, and God knows this is probably wrong, that Obama could have lost this election the night he secured the nomination. Rather than lay out specific proposals and the direction in which he intended to take the nation, he reverted to platitudes about “hope” and “change” and even managed to assure his fans that this marked the night oceans would recede. In other words, he continued to act as a celebrity rather than a serious candidate.

As Peggy Noonan wrote, “Middle America,” “The Silent Majority,” whatever you choose to call it, started to ask about whether there was a there there outside of the lofty rhetoric. Obama’s qualifications started to be questioned outside of the left-wing echo chamber. The last few months have resolved nothing, answered nothing, and clarified little about Obama.

Anyone who claims they know as a certainty how this election will turn out is a fool. It is no surprise most of those claims are made by the Left.

Sen. John McCain has started to show he has the determination to win. For many of us, this was the unanswered question about him. His campaign has shown a new discipline, McCain has stayed on message, and the senator has surprised many of us with his willingness to combat the lies and distortions that emanate from his so-called “friends” in the MSM and the political Left.

The cheering motorcyclists Noonan referenced symbolized the distillation of several things–the increased uncertainty about Obama, the increased determination of McCain, and the public’s increased focus on this election.

Most Americans aren’t like those of us who participate in campaigns, visit and contribute to Internet blogs, and participate in political rallies. No, they go to work, raise children, and a short time out from an election decide who will get their vote. That is a good thing, really, because it means most Americans aren’t so wrapped up in partisan politics that they can’t make a dispassionate, rational choice. Of course, their decision will be based on events they didn’t really notice at the time that led up to the point where a decision had to be made. Some time ago, Obama was the master of those events. He no longer is.

That, my friends, bodes well for the McCain camp.